My initial reason for going to Seattle last month was to meet Joan Baez. My friend Dirk was touring with her, and since Joan was my mom’s favorite singer, as a dream fulfillment for her, we (me & my friend Kristi) would not only get to see her live, but meet her… as long as we could get to one of her shows. It was pure kismet that the last show of her 50th Anniversary of performing would be in Seattle, a city I know well and love dearly.
In the week before the show, I gladly spent more than a few hours dining and slurping in my old haunts – Cupcake Royale, Top Pot, Thaiku, B & O Espresso, Le Panier, Pho Than Brothers, and possibly a few others. But this year is about change and renewal, so I was sure to make time to discover a few new spots.
Fellow blogger, writer and goddess networker, Traca Savadogo of Seattle Tall Poppy, and I met at The Dish on Leary. No, we actually met there… for the very first time. Feeling like I’d known her for years, we sat down to a soulful Tuesday breakfast. I’ve never really hung out with fellow bloggers (not purposefully, it just happened that way), but it was great to talk shop with someone who shared the enthusiasm for the culinary arts as well as for matchmaking/networking. And The Dish, with its funky vibe, yummy dishes, and locals content with finding their usual stool available, was the perfect spot to meet on such a positive note.
Trying out places where “everyone” goes is sometimes disappointing. The crowd is there, but you wonder “why.” But The Dish hit that comfort mark that touches my soul. Now remember, I’m from the south, but their biscuits & gravy were chocked full of chunky sausage bits with just the right amount of seasoning. The eggs Benedict were perfectly doused with Hollandaise and gracefully accompanied by sautéed spinach and mushrooms, bacon, and home fries. Aspiring to one day feel as cool and hip as our waitress, let me tell you that this is now on my list of places to frequent when I’m back in the Emerald City. If you follow my lead, arrive early or be very patient. We were lucky to get a seat as soon as we got there, even if it was Tuesday. As for weekends, enact patience, my friend. It’s worth it.
After breakfast, we hopped in Traca’s car, and headed to Ballard for chocolates. Not just any chocolates. Exquisite dark pieces rich with flavors from the islands of Sao Tomé and Príncipe off the western coast of Africa. When we arrived, I was surprised to see Andrew Daday, behind the counter, whom I’d known back in the Capitol Hill days when he was involved in Caffé Vita and Via Tribunali. Still an advocate of exceptional coffee, he now adds chocolate to his record, promoting Claudio Corallo’s principle of biodynamic and direct trade methods, resulting in rich, smooth cacao voodoo that captivates the most ornery of cocoa bean critics.
The evening I arrived in Seattle, after rushing home to change into something less comfortable, then speeding down 15th Ave. W. to make it to Benaroya Hall in time to catch the 2nd half of Gershwin and Beethoven (meaning just Beethoven), Aimée and I found ourselves with a hankering for a nosh or two. Parking is worse than ever in downtown Seattle/Belltown, but somehow we found a space, strolled into Black Bottle from the blistery wind, and squeezed our way back to a cozy table. Must-haves: broccoli blasted and fried tofu. And in fairly big portions as we ended up bringing some home. Crowded, loud, and with the same ole bar scene native to Seattle nightlife, it’s a great place to hang with a good friend, or then again to pick up inebriated techies or accountants.
Another new spot on my list is Ocho in Ballard. Tiny digs, and tiny prices until you realize you’ve ordered $50 worth of small plates, it’s warm and cozy and full of delicious wines, cordial staff, and slightly higher end but real Spanish tapas. Go early to grab a space (in very small groups).
Café Presse was another newbie on 12th in Capitol Hill. I expected something slightly different, maybe cozier, but the food was delish, and the staff were friendly. A rillettes sandwich on French bread with cornichons, and a side of frites brought me back slightly to days of Paree. Though I would have gotten it at a street vendor for about a 1/3 of what it cost here. The fries were deliciously crispy, and the water poured, well, like water.
I’ve been reading a lot about Stumptown Coffee during the past year or so, and had to make a couple of runs there to see what the hype was about. I’m no coffee connoisseur, but I do know what I like and don’t, and it’s pretty damn good. Plus, they have a great direct trade system going on. Need a second opinion, check out Saveur’s October 2008 issue.
I had the chance to check out a few farmers' markets too, while not hitting them all, and only making me want to shop when I had no kitchen. 😦 But still going stronger than ever are Pike Place Market, Ballard Market, and Fremont Market. Farm Program Manager of Pike Market Noa O'Hare was kind enough to sit down with me a couple of times as I picked his brain on how & the heck to make a market work. Giving me great insight, I only hope I can apply his wisdom to our future Hub City Public Market in Downtown Lafayette and give our town a new outlet on fresh, local foods and awareness on how to make our community even better. No pressure.
Kristi and I did make it to the Joan Baez show, which was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever experienced. Afterward, we were able to meet her, and hang for a few minutes with her and the boys backstage before heading back to Ballard for drinks & exhilarating conversation with friends.
Quite difficult leaving; however, one must get back to responsibilities. (poo!) But Lafayette’s a pretty amazing place to be too, and if you ever get a chance to come down, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I’ve never known a warmer community. It’s all beautiful, wherever your nest may lay.